DOUG'S DIGGINGS: Old neighborhood buddies reunited in Green Bay
I had a great weekend, traveling to Green Bay with my two sons and attending the Packers-Cardinals game Sunday afternoon. Part of the fun, however, involved getting together with a group of buddies who grew up in the same neighborhood in Hudson in the late '50s and '60s.
I grew up on Fifth Street near the corner of Fifth and River streets. Four of us met Saturday night in Green Bay and reminisced about old times - we were among those who were part of the neighborhood. The four were, along with me, Wayne Johnson, Gerry Johnson and Jim Bleier.
Wayne and I still live in the Hudson area. Wayne is a local realtor. He and his wife Rhonda have a partial season-ticket package to packer games and were headed there this weekend. His brother Gerry and wife Jane (Stanek) now live in the Trego/Minong area, but lived in Hudson before Gerry retired from 3M. Jim Bleier and his wife Gail (Christianson) live in Green Bay and have been there since the early 1980s, working now with Festival Foods. Jim handled most of the coordinating of the meeting when he heard we were all headed to Green Bay for the football game on Nov. 4.
It is interesting how a person can be apart from old buddies, sometimes for years, but when you get together it's like nothing has changed. Of course, some of the old stories may change - they tend to get better with time! We all went to high school at what is now Willow River Elementary and Jim told the story about jumping out of a second story window, part of crazy challenge. The act itself was bizarre, but not as bizarre as what happened next. Fact is, his mother and dad were driving by the school just as it happened! What are the odds? Principal W.G. Heating didn't have to discipline Jim too much; Jim's dad -- the late Dr. Howard Bleier -- took care of that! In fact, Jim was called to the office soon after the incident and Heating informed him that he would have to call his parents. Jim's response, "They already know!"
Then there was the day I was involved with the buddies and got the bright idea to drop a fire cracker down the gas tank of a longtime abandoned car sitting near our back yard. There may have not been gas in the tank, but there were plenty of fumes to send flames shooting out the gas tank opening. I immediately realized it was a dumb thing to do, but am thankful to this day that 1---the car didn't explode; and 2---none of us were looking into the jaws of the gas tank as the flames shot out! Don't try this at home!
Of course, my mother happened to see what happened and there wasn't much opportunity to justify the act!
Back in the day, the Wayne and Gerry Johnson were both good basketball players in Hudson and anyone who played basketball in those days made a habit of slightly propping open a window on Friday afternoon. Kids could get into the school on weekends to play in the gym! Wayne and Gerry were masters at it!
Enough with some of the neighborhood secrets -- the rest of the weekend was also great fun. My sons, Donovan and Darrin Stohlberg, and I went to the Packer Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field on Saturday afternoon. I had been to the older hall before Lambeau was remodeled, but this was my first look at the new Hall of Fame. It is a remarkable place with all the bits of pieces of Packer history that any true Packer fan will enjoy. We spent about three hours there, including some time at the pro shop. The pro shop is like a two-floor department store and I believe you can purchase just about anything with a Packer logo on it!
We stayed in Appleton because most Green Bay motels require renting the room both Friday and Saturday nights on game weekends. Before going to the Hall of Fame, we listened to much of the Hudson-Appleton North football game on the radio. The North announcers were quite complimentary toward Hudson, but were indeed stunned on how Hudson dominated play.
Sunday morning we headed back to Lambeau Field and arrived at the stadium amid a sunny, but cool day. The game time temperature was 42 degrees, but we were dressed for it and had a comfortable day at Lambeau. The Packers won 31-17, so the weekend came complete with a Packer victory.
The Packers are currently expanding Lambeau Field, adding 6,600 seats and other amenities at a cost of $143 million. New scoreboards have already been completed and the new seating should be available for the 2013 season. All of the new seat are high above the south end zone and will increase the stadium's seating capacity to 79,000. There are currently 87,000 people on the waiting list to get Packer season tickets. Jim Bleier goes to nearly every game, but has been on the season-ticket waiting list since he first moved to Green Bay in the early 1980s. He thinks he might make it next year with the additional seats being added.
All-in-all it was a great weekend. It was my first trip to Lambeau Field in five years, but I'm starting to believe this should be an annual outing. If you are a Packer fan, there is nothing like Green Bay on a game weekend.